Before you leave campus, you have a unique opportunity to take advantage of face-to-face interactions and your “student” status to set yourself up for career success. Graduates who implement these four ideas have faster job searches and easier career transitions down the road. Do these four things even if you already have a job lined up, as you most likely will be changing jobs sooner than you think: less than a third of graduates hold onto their first job for more than a year, and on average graduates change jobs four times in the first 10 years post-college!
Build your network before you leave campus
Use the in-person interactions you’re still having to grow a network that will help drive your success post-graduation. You’ll initiate more meaningful connections more easily while you’re still in school and the interactions are face-to-face.
One great way to easily connect and keep in touch with students, faculty and administrators is via LinkedIn. If you’re not on or paying attention to LinkedIn, now’s the time to start. In one of my job search workshops an upcoming graduate remarked “LinkedIn is for older people.” Well guess what, you’re about to join that club! For the majority of you (those entering professions where there is significant turnover in jobs), this social media platform will become your best friend in your job search and career, if you know how to use it.
Set a goal for yourself to bring 200 people into your network. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not the case if you think broadly about your network. You don’t have to know people well; if you know them just a little bit and your feelings about them are somewhat positive, then they’re in! Connect with your classmates, dorm-mates, faculty and administration, in addition to family and friends, your dentist, and everyone else in your life.
When I say “connect,” I don’t mean just one time. Aim to keep in touch with your network, whether they are on LinkedIn, Facebook, your email address book or somewhere else. If you’re in a job search, update them roughly once a month on how you’re progressing. If you’ve already landed a job, update them at least two to three times a year. In your update message, remind them of your job target, e.g. “business analyst/associate, financial services” (that is, the position and the organization-type).
If you’re actively looking for a job, keeping in touch helps you to access the “hidden job market.” You find opportunities in this market through the relationships you build. Have enough targeted (i.e. focused on a specific job target) email exchanges, conversations, and informational meetings and you’ll start landing interviews. It’s the way most interviews are obtained these days.
Set up meetings with faculty members or administrators who can help you
Getting these meetings is much easier to do while on campus. They almost “have” to meet with you since you’re still a student. Nevertheless, make it easy for these meetings to happen. Ask for just 20 minutes (everyone has 20 minutes somewhere on their calendar). In these meetings you might:
- Get their advice on how you present yourself: How are you coming across in your resume, your pitch?
- Get advice on what job targets they suggest you pursue given your interests and skills.
- Share your job search “marketing plan” with them; this plan includes a prioritized list of the organizations in which you’re interested, and the type of job you’re going for. Ask them “what do you think of my list?” They may be inclined to offer contacts at one or more of these organizations, which could lead to meetings and interviews.
Then bring them into your network and keep in touch.
Even if you already have a job lined up, set up these meetings. You want their advice, and you want them in your network for subsequent career transitions. Start building these relationships now.You will be so glad you did in a year or two when you want to make your next move (or when your company starts letting people go in the next recession).
Make an in-person visit to your career center
Make sure you understand all they offer. You’ll often get more information when you can meet in-person. And of course invite the career professionals you meet with into your network.
You’ll definitely want to learn how to access the career-center’s alumni database for future networking. They might also offer face-to-face practice interviewing, which I highly recommend; these practice sessions can reveal any communication issues that you may be unaware of. Learn about any on-campus interviewing opportunities that are still going on. Some institutions reduce their career service offerings to alumni, so take advantage of your “student” status while you’re still there.
Go to on-campus events that involve leaders from organizations in which you’re interested
Go to the events, listen carefully and take notes while these leaders speak. Then email the speaker afterwards. Reference the event, their comments, and pitch yourself for an informational meeting or interview at their company. In the subject line, refer to the event so they open your email.
If you write this email the right way you will almost always land a meeting, as my clients have experienced. The reason: when this senior executive who comes to your school receives your nice, concise, powerful email, they usually forward it to HR. The HR person receiving the email will in turn feel compelled to interview you, both because the email was forwarded from this senior executive and because of the initiative you displayed in sending it!